Özil: I was airbrushed out of Mercedes campaign after Erdoğan picture
Former German national footballer Mesut Özil has accused car manufacturer Mercedes Benz of removing his image from their World Cup campaign as he faced backlash for appearing in a photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, business media platform Campaign reported on Monday.
Özil’s “thinly veiled swipe” at the car manufacturer, which was the German national team (DFB)’s lead sponsor during the World Cup this year, came as part of a three page statement in which the footballer announced his retirement from the German national team due to the racist treatment he felt he had been subjected to.
"I was asked to take part in promotional videos for the World Cup. Yet after my picture with President Erdogan, they took me out of the campaigns and cancelled all promotional activities that were scheduled. For them, it was no longer good to be seen with me and called the situation 'crisis management',” Campaign quoted Özil as saying.
"Mercedes-Benz has been a partner of the DFB and the national team for over 40 years, both in good and bad times. We will look at the allegations of Mesut Özil to the media, the DFB and the sponsors in peace, evaluate and then decide," responded Jörg Howe, head of global communications at Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler in a Tweet.
Özil, whose parents are Turkish, faced harsh criticism this year after presenting a signed shirt to the Turkish president, with many including politicians calling into question his loyalty to Germany.
"I feel unwanted and think that what I have achieved since my international debut in 2009 has been forgotten," Özil said in statement on Sunday announcing he would no longer play for Germany.
Özil helped Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but the reigning champions crashed out of the competition this year in the first round after defeats in limp performances against Mexico and South Korea.